The Ultimate Myth of Objective Journalism
The cornerstone of modern journalism is built on a lie, one of third-party disassociation defined in a stout set of principles regarding journalistic integrity. Among these archaic and arbitrary ethical codes, the reporter finds himself as being likened to the eye of a camera. Without thought or understanding, the heroic progeny of Hermes wing their way around the world to bring us news of politics, economics, human struggles, sporting events and war. The methodology that has defined the practices of reporters for the last century calls for a concept which seems to only exist in the field which created it. It is the concept of pure human objectivity that contradicts most of the rational world’s view on the subject. Because of the inherent problems concerning practical application, the news has become increasingly hydrogenized and homogenized to bring the public a refined form of ‘fact’ that has been separated from all things resembling subjective view points or bias.
The human experience has discovered the existence of some things that cannot be expressed in such a quantitative form. Though millions may argue as to the nature of love, very few will argue that the connection we call love is a very real, though intangible, fact. If the subjects of modern news stories were obviously angry, rude or bored, the audience would never know. All passions and ideals of people ‘fighting the good fight’ are lost in the dry factoids which are mixed and matched to make a story. In this way, the larger part of humanity sees headlines of war, pain and death, and forget any inkling of human nobility, love or art. The consumers of news products along with the reporters themselves, inevitably become jaded. Sen. Paul Simon has said, ‘The great weakness of journalists was whiskey. Now the great weakness of journalists is cynicism.’
Many may postulate that an incomplete picture is better than an inaccurate one. This may even lead to a viable argument, however, that the selection of facts is in the discretion of reporter and editor alike. Larger news stories covering geopolitical movements or concepts cannot possibly contain every bit of minutia on a given issue. Any individual will naturally gravitate toward the verifiable facts that support their position or interests, as the reporter may only attempt to discover the facts that support his or her hypothesis.
The rapid progression of technology has created a society that exists in the proverbial ‘Information Age.’ In step, every dynamic media carries the ‘news’ to billions of inquiring minds. As the national and international medias conform to larger and larger corporate models, the viewers and listeners have transformed, unwittingly, into consumers. Consumers who, during station breaks or in between articles, are told about products or services by companies who have paid dearly for the privilege of doing so.
As a result, mainstream news broadcasts strive to attain larger client bases not through keen journalistic prowess, but through sensationalistic tactics all under the myth of objective non-partisanship. Even with the attempted detachment of the writers, it still can be said that the Los Angeles Times is a liberal publication or that the Orange County Register is a conservative one, each (coincidently) reflecting the political demographics of its circulation area.
With the near-monopolization of media outlets, it has become more and more difficult to find a contrasting view of any repute. It is this pseudo objectivity that has become more dangerous to rational public thought then any subversive pamphlet found on a college campus or in a communist cell meeting. The ebb and flow or fads and focuses of the media create panics, discourage ideas and concepts, misrepresent character by the denationalization of personal flaws or mistakes, and even allow political unknowns without outrageous or inconsistent ideas to ride waves of popularity into office.
In the earlier stages of North American development, prominent news outlets were papers printed by private presses owned by small business owners and prominent local citizens. The products of these presses invariably reflected the views of the owners and were admittedly biased. In response, other local businesses had the very real and economically viable option of financing their own papers, should they not find the myopic opinions of their rivals salient. Some small presses do attempt this, but rarely do they manage to last any significant period of time which is necessary to garnish a readership and support base.
As UCI lacks a journalism major, we are unfamiliar with these issues. Instead we have a literary journalism major which is dramatically different (excuse the pun) than traditional journalism. Here, expressive description itemization of emotions, demeanors, and apparent motives of the actions are being reported on, though many employers and editors already entrenched in the field view ‘literary journalism’ as a perverse and vulgar term. With more and more universities embracing what is the next evolution of reporting, future editors may look at archived articles from their publication and scoff at the nonobjective, undescriptive and boring text and thank the gods that the ‘old-style’ no longer exists. Until that day, I will be vigilantly interjecting my opinion where it is not welcome and adding ‘colorful commentary’ to my prose.
Joshua Guerrero is a third-year English major.